8 Tips to Help Ace Your First Job Interview After College
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All of your hard work has paid off – you mastered your resume, cover letter, LinkedIn profile, and personal brand. After passing the first screening interview – whether on the phone or through video – you finally made it to the next round, which will often be the first of your in-person interviews.
Getting the opportunity to have an in-person interview is a big deal, so be sure you don’t take it for granted. According to Career Sidekick, the average hiring manager will only invite 2-4 candidates for an in-person interview.
Starting the next step in life – your career – can be scary, but don’t worry – Ascent has 8 important tips to help you ace your first in-person interview – continue reading and watch the video below:
- Analyze the Job Posting
- Interview Practice with the STAR Method
- Dress the Part
- Be on Time
- Do Your Research
- Have Your Resume and Cover Letter Prepared
- Sell Your Personal Brand
- Follow up
1. Analyze the Job Posting
If you’ve made it this far in the interview process, the recruiter or hiring manager believes you are qualified for the position – Congratulations! But it is still essential to understand the responsibilities of the position. Try to memorize the skills and qualities listed in the job description so you can reference them with your past work experience throughout your in-person interview.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- What was the result or outcome of a project?
- What was my responsibility on a team (your value)?
- How did I help others?
Remember, other candidates interviewing for the same role will have the educational background and work experience needed for this position, just like you. You need to determine – how will you stand out from the other candidates?
Identify what you can bring to the position that’s not in the job description. Having the tenacity to go above and beyond your job duties is a trait that hiring managers often look for in future employees.
2. Interview Practice with the STAR Method
Preparing for a job interview?
Whether you practice in the mirror or ask a mentor for help, it can be beneficial to conduct a mock interview to prepare your answers to common interview questions beforehand. Like other skills such as swimming, riding a bike, or running, practice makes perfect, and you won’t get better until you practice, practice, practice!
Tip: Video yourself answering the questions to see your body language, and hear/see the word fillers you need to remove (ah, like, you know), etc.
- S – Situation
- T – Task
- A – Action
- R – Result
Share the SITUATION you were involved in, identify the TASK at hand, explain the ACTION you took in that situation, and how your work impacted the RESULT. Preparing your answers around this technique will ensure you effectively describe your skills during the interview.
3. Dress the Part
“Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.”
You’ve probably heard this saying before, but it’s important to keep it in mind as you search for the perfect outfit to wear for your in-person interview. Whether you’re interviewing for an internship or entry-level job, dress the part by wearing a nice shirt, blazer, and an ironed pair of pants. This will show the hiring manager that you’re serious about the job.
During your first screening interview – whether on the phone or through video – you can even ask the hiring manager how employees typically dress while working at the company. Don’t assume all companies have “Casual Fridays” (where you may be allowed to wear jeans) or vice versa (that you have to wear a 3-piece suit every day). If you still aren’t 100% sure about what you should wear, dress more professionally just to be safe.
PS: Have your clothes laid out and ironed the night before your interview, so you don’t have to rush while picking your outfit in the morning.
4. Be on Time
Don’t give your interviewer a reason to not consider you simply because you were late to the interview. Plan on arriving for your interview at least 15 minutes early. This will not only show that you are serious about the position, but this will also give you time to relax and take a breath before the interview.
Tip: Be sure to look up the directions to the interview the night before, so that you know when to leave home. Plan to leave 30 minutes earlier just in case – traffic can be crazy sometimes and finding a parking spot can be a struggle! Hiring managers will be sympathetic and understand if you’re late in cases of emergency, but not necessarily so when you failed to plan accordingly.
5. Do Your Research
Go all out! You can never be over-prepared. Don’t assume you have the job in the bag with your internship, leadership, and community service experience. Be ready to answer questions about the company and the industry if you want to move onto the next round of interviews.
Take time to prepare extensively about the company by researching their website, social media accounts, marketing campaigns, and press releases. It can also be helpful to research their main competitors. Although you may not be interviewing for a competitor, it is great to have an idea about what sets the company you are interviewing for apart and perhaps where they can improve.
Based upon your research, prepare ahead of time 2-3 questions about the company and at least 1 question that pertains to your interviewer as well. Asking thoughtful questions illustrates that you care and that your interest in the company and team is genuine.
Additionally, if you know the name of your interviewer, be sure to research them and their position. In some instances, you may be able to find some information on the company website, but if not, you can check on LinkedIn as well. On their LinkedIn profile, you can see how long they have been at the company, their official title or position, and what previous positions they held.
Tip: Prior to your interview, send them a short and to the point email, letting them know you are looking forward to your upcoming interview. This will show enthusiasm for the position! Look at the suggestions The Balance Careers gives on how to send a confirmation email.
6. Have Your Resume and Cover Letter Prepared
Before your in-person interview, clarify if one person will interview you, or if you’ll be interviewed by a panel. If it’s a panel interview, then make sure to have several resumes and cover letters printed for each individual.
During the interview, don’t get in the habit of looking down at your resume and cover letter while talking. As part of your preparation for the big day, memorize both documents so you don’t have to use them for guidance. Reference the positions listed on your resume to speak to your experiences and how they relate to your application.
Tip: If you plan on taking notes during your interview, bring a note pad and a pen. Additionally, be sure to ask your interviewer beforehand if it is okay that you take notes.
7. Sell Your Personal Brand
How will you stand out from your competition? This is where your personal brand comes in!
A personal brand is how you want to be remembered by others, both in your professional life and personal life. Ask yourself how you want to be remembered and leverage those values and passions in your interview. Many companies have programs dedicated to social causes such as community service, economic development, or local youth programs. Perhaps your passions and values could further expand those programs in the future!
If you could leave your interviewer with a few key skills when thinking of you as a candidate, what would they be? Dedicated, inspiring, organized, respectful, diligent, attentive, etc.? Focus on the skills you excel in and demonstrate to your interviewer how they can be useful in the position you are applying for. You can even do this during your in-person interview by taking notes, making eye contact, pausing before answering a question, not playing with your hands, and remembering to smile.
However, don’t think that your personal brand is something you simply utilize during the interview process. It’s essential to live by your own brand and implement it throughout your career and everyday life. Being authentic is vital when selling your personal brand – don’t try to trick them with skills you don’t have – play to your strengths to show them why you’re the best candidate for this position.
8. Follow up with Your Interviewer
At the end of your interview, make sure to ask your interviewer about next steps:
- Is there a specific date or time I should expect to hear back?
- Will you be reaching out by phone or email?
- Will there be another round of interviews?
Tip: Do you have any concerns about me moving to the next step in the interview process? By asking your interviewer about any concerns, you can try to solve them in the moment! Even if you get rejected for this position, the immediate feedback can help you in future interviews for other roles.
Simple questions such as these will show that you are excited about this opportunity while also staying informed on the future interview process. There are various ways a company may decide to organize the interview process, so stay informed and alert.
Lastly, according to Monster, a thank you email to your interviewer after an interview is the most utilized method in following up with potential employers. However, it is unfortunate that two out of three candidates don’t send out a thank you email. Whether you write a handwritten note, send an email, or message them on LinkedIn, it is vital to thank your interviewer for their time within 24 hours of the interview – don’t wait!
You are finally getting your foot in the door at the company of your dreams. Launch into your future career by taking the time to prepare for your interview and land that dream job.
For more tips on how to transition from college to the professional world, read our blog Getting Ready for Your First Job Out of College.